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Trajectories of social relationships and cognitive decline: losing and gaining in late life

Liao, J; (2015) Trajectories of social relationships and cognitive decline: losing and gaining in late life. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Background: The extent to which social relationships influence cognitive ageing is unclear. Inconclusive evidence on the neuro-protective effect of social relationships may arise from various social relationship measures and reverse causation. Aim: This thesis systematically investigates the longitudinal dynamic associations between social relationships from middle to early old age and cognitive ageing. Methods and results: Analyses were based on repeat measures of functional and structural aspects of social relationships and cognition (i.e. executive function and memory) from the Whitehall II prospective cohort, providing 10-year follow-up of 6,867 participants in the age range from 45 to 80 years. A set of growth curve models was applied sequentially. Results derived from multilevel models showed midlife negative but not positive aspects of close relationships were associated with accelerated declines in executive function. A large friend network was associated with better concurrent executive function only. Growth mixture models uncovered three latent classes of social relationships with divergent longitudinal changing patterns from middle to early old age, where participants identified as consistently perceiving extremely-high levels of confiding support over years experienced the least decline in memory. Last, findings obtained from dual change score models revealed that a greater cognitive function at the preceding stage was related to less positive changes in confiding support and less negative changes in practical support; whereas there was no detectable influence the other way around. Conclusions: The effect of social relationships on declines in cognition from middle to early old age is not substantial in this British civil servant cohort. On the other hand, cognitive ability appears to modify subsequent changes in support from close relationships. This study contributes to the understanding of the dynamic interplay between social relationships and cognitive decline in late life, and highlights the importance of including multiple repeat measures to better understand ageing.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Trajectories of social relationships and cognitive decline: losing and gaining in late life
Event: University College London
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1472513
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